At this time in 1954, Cliff Bethea brought pumpkins

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, October 14, 2015

It was about this time of the year back in 1954 when fall colors were dominating nature’s scene that Cliff Bethea brought in a big shipment of colorful pumpkins. They were unloaded directly in front of his Cliff’s Cash and Carry grocery store on East Nashville Avenue. He ran several ads in the Atmore Advance and on WATM and customer flocked in to buy them. I remember his pricing the small ones at a 25 cents. Then, 50 cents and finally $1 for the larger ones.

But there was one pumpkin, specially ordered for a customer from Northwest Florida, that had to be hoisted onto the bed of a pickup truck. It weighed several hundred pounds. Cliff called in a frontend loader from the local cattle sales pin to lift this huge pumpkin onto the truck. We later learned this buyer was taking it to one of those kitchens for homeless organizations where it would be processed and cooked into pies. Reportedly thousands of pies were made from that pumpkin.

Cliff boasted, and rightfully so, that you could smell the fragrance of fruits and vegetables displayed in his grocery store. This was so true. The aroma was so inviting that customers rushed in to stock up. He knew that I liked soft sweet pears and he always gave me a couple when I came in on weekends. He gave them to me because of his allowing me to read his radio commercials on WATM.

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L&N Railroad workers came in to buy sack fulls of his tasty fruits when the trains stopped along the sidetracks, and Ribbon Mill employees on North Main Street, finding his fruits to their likings, came in during lunch hour to make purchases.

Back then, I frequently talked with a man from Clanton, who drove down in his pickup truck loaded with peaches. Always parking near the Frisco Railroad overpass, he sold his succulent fruits to locals as well as regular customers who drove up from Pensacola. His peaches were big, round, soft and very delicious. He told me that Atmore customers were the “very best.” He said he sold more peaches here than anywhere else.

Another 1954 business that always drew me in was the Torch Café, located up Highway 31 east near the entrance to the airport.

Mrs. Grace was the kitchen manager and her specialty was grits. There was something about the way she prepared them. I think she cooked them in milk.

I remember one real cold morning, sitting with K C Powell, Willard Everette and Big John Woods for breakfast a man and woman stopped in. They told us they were from Michigan and were touring the south to get away from their cold weather. Willard asked them how they like this extreme cold weather we were having and they replied “this weather is just right for us up home, in fact this would be a warm day for us.”

They ordered some cream of wheat but the waitress told them it was not on their menu. She said we do have grits to which the couple replied “bring us out a couple of bowls.” While the three of us used butter in our grits, we noticed the Michigan couple began dousing their bowls with heaping piles of sugar and lots of sweet milk. They told us they had never eaten grits and said they could not find them in their grocery stores, but they were surely going to buy some locally and take them home with them.

I remember so many other old friends eating there on occasions. There were Russell and Nell Stillings from Canoe. She was the post mistress there. Dr. Thornbloom, the chiropractor and his wife found those tasty breakfast meals to their liking.

Because of its unique location on Highway 31 and because there was no interstate back then, the Torch Café was frequented quite often by highway travelers.

Yes, the Torch was a popular café back then. I enjoyed many, many breakfast meals with friends there.

Some call it fall and some call it autumn, but no matter what it should be called it is the most colorful time of the year. Trees are turning, leaves are falling and fall crops are popping onto the scene.

And, you know food seems to go right along with the time of the year. Sugar cane, sweet potatoes, avocados, beets, pumpkins, collards, hot dogs and funnel cakes are all symbolic of fall. What about nuts and seeds such as chinquapins, chestnuts and sunflower seeds? Speaking of Williams Stations Day, it is just around the corner and the Atmore Chamber of Commerce has outlined another record-breaking program for us.

Even the moon has more color in fall. And, it appears to be bigger, too. Very noticeable is the fact days now are shorter and the time change is just around the corner.

We must quickly savor all these signs of autumn because they will be gone and embraced into the dull gray listless arms of winter.

We will have more news from years gone by next week.